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Remove Politics, Raise Charlatans by @DemolaRewaju

Seeing much political interest in the US Midterm Elections on my TL even from people who won’t normally discuss politics and I’m both delighted but also disappointed for Nigeria.

Politics here is at a very kindergarten level – without even comparing it to countries like the US.

Being in politics mostly for the past decade and associating with politicians, I still get shocked at how unpolitical it all is and how even the best of the best politicians are extremely terrible and inept at playing the game they profess.
(I should explain that last word…)

To profess something is to say it repeatedly or to pledge allegiance to something – and it’s the root word of another word: professional.

The contradiction of the Nigerian Politician is such that they profess to be Politicians but in truth, many of them are total Amateurs.

Stayed up late and woke early this morning to keep up with the US elections as I’ve done for more than two decades (although I shun putting their polity on the frontburner here) and I’m still stunned by how much more Nigeria has to grow and especially in the area of Politics.

The polls, the depth of news analysis, the statistics, the campaigns using brilliant innovations, the mudslinging, the tactics – this is why I love politics.

In Nigeria: you sit with the best of them and quickly learn that what they’re doing here is anything else but politics.

Some APC folks who lack political knowledge and grounding would say Tinubu is the best politician around – and you look closely and see that he’s playing “machine politics” – a style common in America decades ago and abandoned because it’s so easy to defeat.

I look and laugh.

The politics of many in Nigeria is largely dependent on the control or compromise of state forces and power, such that Lilliputians pretend to be Giants and manikins masquerade as gods.

Tell them our generation is watching.
Tell them our generation is coming.
And we will win.

The Art and Science of True Politics is a very beautiful thing not just to watch but to engage in.

The true politician in a Democracy seeks the highest good of/for the people and in that sense, what’s not to love?

But politics in Nigeria has been deliberately kept backwards.
So what you have on the scene (and this cuts across parties) are accidental but ‘professional’ politicians (who profess politics) rather than Deliberate/Intentional Politicians whose entire lives are built around nation-building.

This phenomenon was deliberately brought about.

One thing we’ve failed to fully explore as an offshoots of military regimes in Nigeria is the deliberate castigation of politics and politicians.

Every time the military took power, politicians and politics were always the convenient scapegoat to be blamed for all societal ills.

Why Imo APC Candidate Was Arrested at the Airport

Politics and Politicians in Nigeria have been so demonised over the years that everybody just finds it strangely convenient to blame the generic politician, without naming names.

To say “I want to be a Politician” in Nigeria is almost like saying “I want to be an Armed Robber”.

The putsch of the military into governance in Nigeria started literally with the killing of politicians.

In one night in January 1966, the best of the Northern politicians were slaughtered.

Ever since then, the military always blamed politics/politicians for everything wrong.

For many years after 1966, the military banned politics and political discourse and managed to set Nigeria on edge with a civil war which I strongly believe would never have happened if politicians were in charge.

You don’t send people with fingers on the trigger to negotiate.

So messed up did our politics become in those first 13 years of military rule that even the great Zik flirted heavily with the idea of a Diarchy – let’s kuku share this power before you military boys ruin Nigeria totally.

Perm. Secs ruled supreme as the only ‘sane’ civilians.

The requisite time needed to develop a solid and robust political culture in Nigeria was never given – the return to Democracy in 1979 was truncated in just four years by another group of soldiers too used to power, strangers to civil authority and foolish.

…led by Buhari.

And then for 16 years from that time until 1999, Nigerian politics became an absolute mess – bereft of organic ideology, a forced marriage of strange ideological bedfellows and imposed political culture.

Buhari of course did such a very good job of demonising politics.

Throughout his tenure, all the great politicians were in jail for corruption – even after several tribunals found someone like Ekwueme innocent, Buhari jailed them all for the crime of having chosen to serve their country.
That era for me was the worst for the Nigerian polity.

I call it the worst for Nigerian politics not because it was the absolute worst in effect but it turned the best and brightest away from politics and laid the foundation for future assaults on politics/politicians.

Let me rewind a few years to show the quality before then…

Before Independence (pre-1960) and in the First Republic (1960 – 1966), anybody who was anyone in Nigeria was involved in politics somehow: the polity attracted the absolute best.
Pick popular streets in Lagos today and chances are that they’re named after politicians.

Ozumba Mbadiwe, Oba Akran, Eric Moore, Bode Thomas – to mention the less obscure ones – are some examples.

In the North, political participation literally started from the elite of that period – 80% of them were teachers, which was a big deal at that time up North.

Ahmadu Bello, Balewa, Aminu Kano, Abubakar Imam – all rallied from the same network of the only professional association at the time, the Northern Teachers Association.

Even R.A. Dikko, the first northern medical doctor, joined them, as did other professionals aside teachers.
Down South, it was also the same – the best and the brightest were always at the forefront of moving society forward by political participation.

Awolowo was no smalltime Lawyer – he went into politics very deliberately and intentionally and was never ashamed to be a politician.

Zik was a journalist who attained much professional success in Ghana and was also successful in business – managing a chain of business lines that included a bank.

I mention the more familiar names so you can get a feel for what politics was in Nigeria before the militarism.
To be called a Politician in Nigeria up till 1966 when the military came in was a thing of pride.

Even until 1979 when the likes of Awolowo and Zik were still on the scene and the North had sadly been robbed of both Ahmadu Bello and Balewa, it still was.

Until Buhari in 1983.

Buhari laid the groundwork for the demonisation of politics and totally banned any discourse on politics.

Babangida came in and loosened the political climate whenever it was convenient and then strangely began to impose his own ideas and ideals on the politics of Nigeria.

When I read the absolute rubbish that happened in the political space in that 16 years of military rule started by Buhari, sometimes I laugh, sometimes I feel extremely sober.

A political culture was broken and another imposed and the result is what we have today in Nigeria.

There was no continuity, no direct handover of political structures or ideology, to be a politician wasn’t about being popular with the people through good works and communal reputation but by connection to the military high folks in power.

IBB even banned about 23 of them.
There are debates we’re having on the TL today that should have been settled decades ago by our parents and the logical consensus bequeathed to us but there was no political culture.

In contrast, children of politicians here even shun politics because they see it too closely.

IBB banned old politicians with crowd appeal and networks built over years in favour of a ‘New Breed’ – maybe he thought he was doing Nigeria a favour but politics is an evolution that takes time to emerge and the generation he brought in are amateurs if we’re sincere.

You had a Falae who never won a Ward election in his life, today claiming to be a political leader – and this is not a slur on the man but a commentary on our polity today.
It’s that regime of recklessness of 16 years of military rule that ruined our politics.

When you remember that it’s also the same period that Bola Tinubu became a senator – you start to understand.
These are people who stumbled into politics only when they saw the opportunity – many of them had never taken one hour prior to that time to think about nation-building.

So many of them feigning to be leaders and politicians today – none of them prepared for the task.
And this is why our country is the way it is: because the path of development in a democracy has one major highway called Politics – and ours politicians are mostly amateurs.
I’m happy though that many are seeing how things are done in sane countries and seeing that when you feel strongly enough about some issues, you step out and join politics.

And for me, there is no better country for Nigeria and young Nigerians to learn from than America.
The History of America and the Diversity bears many similarities to Nigeria that make a compelling case why a comparative analysis of both countries is always helpful to the political mind.

America birthed modern democracy (which modern countries in Europe have now perfected).
French political scholar, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote a brilliant work that can help anyone understand the ideal that America aspired to when it started in the 1770s.

To understand that and then observe their politics all through history since then is an excursion into genius.
I sometimes believe that Zik’s profundity as regards Unity in Nigeria above Awolowo’s was because of his American experiences.

Of course, Awolowo’s developmental ideals came from the East and because we’re as messed up now as they used to be, they have much to teach us.
So I’m excited seeing political interest on my timeline – you folks should come and let’s show these politicians that they don’t even know politics.

Anyone who has campaigned and won in any student campus of 15,000+ students can defeat some senators in Nigeria – I kid you not.
They don’t know how to campaign in front of crowds, they don’t understand how to perform in office well enough to guarantee a second term, they only aim to seduce the poor masses with foolish antics, theatrics and handouts.

They don’t even have ideas on how Nigeria can grow.

Of course, there are a few exceptions in the polity: I’ll single out Atiku who learnt at the feet of Shehu Musa Yar’Adua from a relatively young age and Bukola Saraki who emerged from a political dynasty and spent time in the West.

Mimiko too, and some others.
Sule Lamido is another special breed – the way he connects with people is an absolute beauty to behold. The way he recalls names and faces…that is true politics: Clear Ideals, Strong Ideology and a Heart Committed to Building People Up by Service.

One day we’ll get there.
In a sane country where politics is robust, the likes of Nnamdi Kanu cannot command followership anywhere true politicians exist.
But that’s the other problem of repressed politics: it’s human nature to seek leadership or something to follow.

Remove Politics, Raise Charlatans.

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